Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: October 18, 2016 Guest: Harry Enten, Ben Jacobs
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR: Happy Las Vegas, my friend. Don`t abuse the time difference.
CHRIS HAYES, "ALL IN" HOST: Oh, I won`t.
MADDOW: Thanks, Chris.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
May 21st, 2011, was a Saturday. And that turned out to be awkward for a couple of reasons.
First, there were 5,000 of these billboards that went up all over the country in the spring of 2011 telling us all that we needed to save the date for May 21st, 2011. At least make a note of May 21st, 2011.
But this is exactly what the billboard looked like. You see there`s a sort of handwritingy headline at the top, and then the multiple fonts thing displayed on that. But then on the right, you see, they used clip art. They used clip art to show somebody actually making a note, actually saving that date in their date book, but that clip art shows that person penciling in that date on a Monday.
So, that was very awkward from the start because that day they were asking us to save, that was a Saturday. Why is that lady writing it down on Monday?
Considerably more awkward was the fact that even though there were 5,000 plus of these billboards all across the country and at least 20 other big RVs and buses and other vehicles that were vinyl wrapped with this same message, "Save the date, May 21st, the return of Christ." Despite all of that nationwide advertising alerting us all that the end of the world was coming, despite that multimillion dollar very visible ad campaign in 2011, sure enough, Saturday, May 21st, 2011 rolled around and the world did not end. It was not apparently that date on which we would experience the return of Christ.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LESTER HOLT, NBC NEWS AN CHOR: Chances are you heard this was predicted to be our last day on earth -- a doomsday scenario from a California minister who spent millions in contributions from his followers to advertise the end of days all over the world.
NBC`s George Lewis reports now on what did and did not happen.
GEORGE LEWIS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Times Square, New York, at precisely 6:00 p.m. tonight. Nothing out of the ordinary happened. The world did not end.
That had been the prediction of Oakland, California pastor Harold Camping, spreading the doomsday word through billboards, pamphlets and radio, and TV broadcast.
HAROLD CAMPING, PASTOR: It will begin with a huge earthquake and probably on the other side of the world where the day begins.
LEWIS: But on the other side of the world in the Philippines, Camping`s followers waited and again nothing happened.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It was Pastor Harold Camping. And his Christian broadcasting outfit called Family Radio out of Alameda, California, quite near Oakland. And he emphatically and loudly promised and broadcast that at 6:00 p.m. on May 21st, 2011, Christ would return to earth, all the good people would be raptured up to heaven. For those of us who weren`t good enough, all of those who were left behind, the earth would immediately become a fatal hellscape.
So, Harold Camping and his ministry, they were very successful in persuading people not just around the country but around the world to go along with his prophecy. Some of his followers spent their life savings paying for these billboards and these RVs and advertisements to spread the word about the end of the world. And the end of the world did not come.
And so the next day, on Sunday, May 22nd, 2011, reporters staked out the home of this apocalyptic preacher from Family Radio. They went to his house down by the airport in Oakland, California, and for most of the day, the preacher would not come out. Eventually had did open his front doors and he told the reporter standing on his doorstep, that he was, quote, "flabbergasted," that the world had not come to an end.
He told the "San Francisco Chronicle", quote, "It has been a really tough weekend." Yes, but not as tough a weekend as you said it would be.
So, Saturday was supposed to be the end of the world. Sunday, he was flabbergasted that it wasn`t the end of the world. By Monday, though, he had recovered. He got on the radio once again on Monday to do his regular radio show. Bet they were surprised to have to do that one.
And he said on Sunday, after the world was supposed to have ended that weekend, he said on -- sorry, he said on Monday that he had basically become unflabbergasted since Sunday. He just needed a day to think about it and when he did think about it and he checked his notes, turns out he did his math wrong. It`s kind of a prophetic typo.
What Pastor Harold Camping explained the Monday after the weekend the world was to end, is that the world actually had on Saturday secretly invisibly started to end exactly on the day he said it was going to, but it turns out it was going to take a few more months for the whole thing to play out, it would take a few more months until we got to actual physical doomsday on earth, but he did have a new date for that, the new end of the world was going to be October 21st, 2011.
"New York Times" ran a story about it at the time, "An Autumn Date for the Apocalypse".
When October 21st rolled around and the world did not end then either, Harold Camping and his Family Radio ministry, they didn`t talk about it at all for a very long time. It was not until the following spring, the following March when they discovered a little bit of humility on the subject. They put out a statement that said, quote, "We humbly acknowledge we were wrong about the timing." Quote, "We have no new evidence pointing to another date for the end of the world." So, stop calling.
It`s one thing to come back from making a bad prediction about who is going to win an election or who`s going to win a Grammy Award or something, right? Coming back from predicting the end of the world twice, that`s like the definition of humbling.
And that experience five years ago with Family Radio in Alameda, California -- I mean, there`s a reason that`s the last anybody ever heard of Family Radio in Alameda, California. If they ever wanted to gin up another swindle like this and get people to spend their life savings donating for advertisements and billboards and RVs spreading the word, how would you ever persuade anybody to do that again after it happened the first time and the second time?
And I think that humiliation principle holds. You would think, at least, the world over.
One of the hallmarks in al Qaeda`s evolution as a terrorist organization was when they started publishing a fairly high quality English language online magazine. The al Qaeda magazine included basically just lots of al Qaeda propaganda. It was sometimes used for making official al Qaeda statements or for publishing laudatory obituaries for al Qaeda fighters or leaders who had been killed. It also sometimes had scary things in it like bomb-making recipes.
Al Qaeda`s Internet magazine, English language magazine, was meant to inspire al Qaeda wannabes all over the world. And it was fittingly, therefore, titled "Inspire." That`s al Qaeda.
When ISIS decided they wanted to do something similar, they wanted to do a magazine with the same aim, they wanted to inspire ISIS wannabes all around the world, they wanted a venue in which they could put out official statements and they wanted to be able to spread their propaganda, they wanted to memorialize their fighters and their leaders when they got killed, they, ISIS, interestingly, they did an English language magazine very much like what al Qaeda did, but they did not pick an English language title for their magazine.
When ISIS created its magazine, they called it "Dabiq." And Dabiq was their ISIS equivalent of prophesying the end of the world.
In 2014, shortly after ISIS started taking territory in the part of Syria that included a small village called Dabiq, ISIS seized -- its propagandists seized on an obscure Islamic prophecy that declared not a specific date for the end of the world but a specific location where the end of the world would start. This little unassuming town of 3,000 people in Syria called Dabiq, about nine miles from the border with Turkey, that was supposed to be the site of an apocalyptic end times battle between the true believing Muslims of the world and a crusader army of infidels.
Now, this is not a mainstream part of Islamic theology. This is as mainstream to the Islamic theology as radio preachers proclaiming specific dates for the end of the world in Christian theology. Like, sure, you can kind of get there, but that`s not where most people go with it.
ISIS, though, they made it a central to who they are. They made a central part of their theology and their propaganda. And after they captured the actual city of Dabiq in 2014, they started closing out their propaganda videos with this image of an ISIS fighter carrying the group`s black banner in front of a hillside overlooking Dabiq. They brought their captives, particularly Western captives, from other territory that they controlled. They brought them into Dabiq so they can be executed in Dabiq so they can make their freaking execution porn videos where they bragged about killing these people in Dabiq.
As I mentioned, they named their English language magazine Dabiq, they even named their international press agency, Amaq. They called it Amaq. And Amaq is the region in Syria that includes Dabiq.
Now, Raqqah, a city in Syria called Raqqah, that`s still reportedly the headquarters for ISIS. In Iraq, the city of Mosul is their biggest stronghold on that side of the Iraqi/Syrian border. But Dabiq is also important. Dabiq is the spiritual bull`s-eye for ISIS` theology and ISIS` propaganda and who they say they are and why they say they matter and, not incidentally, how they say the world will end and how their followers worldwide can get on the right side before the apocalypse that they`re going to bring about in Dabiq with their final battle.
And they have been telling their followers for years now that when they finally get to fight a battle in Dabiq as ISIS, that will be the definitive battle of earth. That battle in Dabiq, if they fight it as ISIS in Dabiq, that will start the global apocalypse.
Well, on Sunday this past weekend, did you save the date? Because on Sunday, ISIS did actually have its battle in Dabiq and now, ISIS no longer controls Dabiq. They lost it.
Turkish forces and a Syrian rebel group took Dabiq from ISIS control this weekend. And you know what? The world did not end.
And so, since then, it`s been theologically awkward. It`s been propagandistically awkward. ISIS reportedly published a "do not worry" message to their followers in their Arabic language newsletter, telling their followers that the great battle of Dabiq that`s going to start the end of the world, they`re still expecting that, that`s still going to happen, they`re still promising it will kick off the end of the world when that battle happens but this just wasn`t it yet. Hmm, minor setback, but we promise Dabiq will still be really important some day.
So, now, there`s this question of what this does to ISIS` whole propaganda message, right? I mean, people are always disappointed when you don`t make good on your promises, especially when you`re asking people to sacrifice a lot based on your promises. But it`s one thing if you`re promising them, you know, jobs or election win or the return you get in a Ponzi scheme. It`s another thing if you literally promise them the world, the end of the world and you go to the good place and everybody else burns. If that`s what you`re promising and then you can`t deliver?
If this were not election season in the United States, biggest story in this country right now would be what`s happening to ISIS. The biggest city that ISIS controls, it`s one of the largest cities in Iraq, Mosul, is now facing an assault between 80,000 and 100,000 Iraqi troops. The previous battles to take back big Iraqi cities from ISIS in places like Fallujah and Ramadi and Tikrit, those battles involved like 10,000 or 15,000 Iraqi troops, this one is 80,000 to 100,000. This is the biggest operation in Iraq since years before the U.S. forces left a war in Iraq.
It`s the last major stronghold that ISIS has in the whole nation of Iraq. It`s the largest city they hold anywhere by far. Iraqi and U.S. leaders have been telegraphing for months that this attack on Mosul was coming. ISIS fighters and their families reportedly have been fleeing Mosul in advance of this operation. They`ve been fleeing other places that ISIS was holding and they`ve now lost, places like, for example, Dabiq in Syria. They have been losing territory in both Iraq and in Syria ahead of this massive operation against Mosul.
And there are lots of reports that ISIS has been basically been fleeing, been sending its fighters and its fighters` families to their last stronghold and their headquarters, the city of Raqqah inside Syria. There are already reports that after Mosul is taken back in Iraq, the next major ground operation against ISIS will likely be in the last major place ISIS is, Raqqah because by that point they`ll have nowhere else to go. There`s nowhere left that they control that they can retreat to.
There are about 5,000 American service members in Iraq, about 500 of them are reportedly involved in this operation to take Mosul back from ISIS. American involvement has been described as some imbedding by American Special Forces but also artillery support and importantly, air strikes. And American air strikes in this battle for Mosul, that means not just drone strikes but U.S. piloted aircraft attacking ISIS sites from the air in support of this Iraqi ground operation.
And no matter how about the Iraqi forces on the ground are or the ISIS forces on the ground, no matter how good either force is on the ground, the fact one side of this fighter there`s American air power in support, that`s almost impossible to overstate in terms of the advantage it`s going to give the Iraqi side as they go to take back this huge city from ISIS.
So, let`s imagine this really big, really important military effort against ISIS goes well. Let`s say they get wiped out of their last stronghold in Iraq. What remains of ISIS then is expected to be a retreat back to their one last power base that they`ve got in Syria.
Let`s say this goes well and ISIS gets consolidated inside Syria in Raqqah, what`s going to happen then? And this was the part you`re going to have to really listen too hard for at tomorrow night`s debate because both of our American presidential candidates, both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, they both love to talk about fighting ISIS. They love to talk about being tougher on ISIS than we`ve ever been before.
But one of those two candidates lives inside an elaborate fantasy world where his conceptions, where what he thinks about what`s going on in the world about fighting ISIS is not just not true, it makes no sense.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Putin`s going wild with bombing ISIS and that`s a good thing, not a bad thing. Who needs to take the credit? Let him have some credit.
So, Russia is not a fan of ISIS. Russia is bombing the hell out of them.
If you look at Syria, Russia wants to get rid of ISIS. We want to get rid of ISIS. Maybe let Russia do it. Let them get rid of ISIS. What the hell do we care?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: What the hell do we care?
In tomorrow night`s debate, watch -- watch, watch, watch for Donald Trump`s answer when he inevitably starts talking about fighting ISIS. Just watch for it, and then remember this: Today, "The Washington Post" reported that Russia has completed its elaborate interconnected comprehensive anti- aircraft system in Syria. It`s a system of anti-aircraft missiles, an air defense system. It`s designed purely and only to shoot down airplanes.
ISIS does not have any airplanes in Syria where Russia just set up this anti-aircraft missile defense system. ISIS does not have any airplanes. But we do. We`re using American aircraft to help this big Iraqi ground operation against ISIS right now right next door in Mosul. Donald Trump believes that Russia is our great ally against ISIS in Syria, but what Russia is doing in Syria is setting up missiles that only shoot down planes, which ISIS does not have.
Donald Trump does not appear in the mainstream media all that much anymore. You might have noticed. He doesn`t really do normal cable or network TV shows or interviews anymore. He mostly on TV now he just does the FOX News Channel and even just on the FOX News Channel, he pretty much does the late night show that`s hosted by a guy who is explicitly a Donald Trump supporter. Beyond that, Mr. Trump has blacklisted so many that he`s reduced to doing really out there conservative talk radio.
He just did an interview with conservative radio host Michael Savage in which he told the host that after he Donald Trump wins the election on November 8th, he`s planning to meet with Vladimir Putin personally one on one, even while Barack Obama is still president. That`s how much he likes and trusts Vladimir Putin because Trump either believes or at least he`s prepared to say that Russia is our great ally in fighting ISIS, while U.S. pilots right now tonight actually are fighting ISIS. And Vladimir Putin`s Russia has just finished erecting a massive anti-aircraft missile defense system to shoot them down.
This will come up at the debate tomorrow unless the debate is completely insane. Donald Trump has previously been bizarre and sometimes impenetrable on both ISIS and Russia, but tomorrow night in the third and final presidential debate, this has got to be his last chance to start making sense on this issue, while American pilots are in the battle.
I mean, I`m not going to say it`s the end of the world if he doesn`t start making sense on this issue, but it`s the end of the world if he doesn`t. Save the date.
MADDOW: Usually, the single-most boring thing about covering any big election is endorsements because he all pretty much go the way you would expect them to, right? This year, it`s been fun and weird to cover endorsements for Trump versus Clinton in the presidential race, because until recently, Donald Trump was in the unenviable position, historically unprecedented position of being a major party presidential candidate who had zero newspaper endorsements for the general election.
We were first to report that he had none. We were first to report when he got his first one on Friday. We then reported yesterday that he got his second one this weekend and now, he`s gotten his third. And, boy, are you going to like watching me try to pronounce the name of the third one.
That story is ahead. Stay with us.
MADDOW: In 2012, two days before the presidential election, an Irish bookmaker called Paddy Power made just an incredibly bold, brash, cocky move. They started paying out on their bets that Barack Obama was going to beat Mitt Romney in that election and they started paying out on those bets two days before the election was even held. And it got all sorts of headlines and I`m sure all resentments from Republicans at the time. The election hasn`t happened yet and you`re already paying out the bets.
Well, now, they have done it again. Except this time, they did not wait until two days before the election. This time, they did it 21 days before the election.
Quote, "Paddy Power believes it`s a done deal and that Hillary Clinton is a nailed-on certainty to occupy the Oval Office." They`re paying out a million dollars that people bet on the U.S. election already, three weeks out.
When it comes to forecasting elections, bookmakers and political prediction markets, they have grown steadily in stature and the amount of attention they get over the last few years. A lot of people see their crowd source wisdom as maybe more reliable than traditional polls. Well, for what it`s worth, like the polls, the prediction markets right now believe that Hillary Clinton has a very high chance of winning. The bookmakers maybe even more so given that at least one of them is already paying out.
That said, this year has been a god awful year for the prediction markets. They have two really bad failures this year. The first thing they were wrong about this year was Donald Trump. Prediction markets absolutely failed to anticipate Donald Trump marching to the Republican nomination this year despite all the polls that consistently showed him ahead.
Prediction markets still in February had Marco Rubio with a 58 percent chance of winning the nomination. That was even after the Iowa caucuses.
Prediction markets this year were also really wrong about Brexit, about the U.K. vote to leave the European Union. A lot of polls showed a very tight race that could go either way. But the prediction market said there was next to no chance that Britain would vote to leave the E.U. Hours before the results were announced, prediction markets pegged the probability of a vote to leave the E.U. at just a 12 percent probability.
And then, in fact, Britain voted to leave the E.U.
Well, now, today in Colorado, Donald Trump is clinging to those failures, saying that`s what we should expect to happen next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Now, even though we`re doing pretty good in the polls, I don`t believe the polls anymore. I don`t believe them. I don`t believe them. And if there`s ten and if there`s one or two bad ones, that`s the only one they show.
Believe me, folks, we`re doing great. If we keep our spirit and if we go out and win, this is another Brexit, believe me. They are so worried.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Are they so worried? Are you worried? Either direction?
Who do you believe -- what do you believe your gut 21 days out from this election? What counts as good data for you?
Do you believe the latest polls which show Hillary Clinton with a healthy lead nationally and in most of the swing states? Do you believe the election forecast models which boil the race down to a single odds of winning number? Do you believe the experts who look at that same data and then tell you what they think?
Today, polling expert Stu Rothenberg of "The Washington Post" proclaimed the race definitively over. He said, quote, "It would be a mistake to call Trump`s current path to an Electoral College victory narrow. It is nonexistent."
Maybe you go with that. Maybe you go with the kids -- the actually kids who can`t vote. Kid voters have taken part in the quadrennial scholastic poll, the scholastic study saying who they think is going to win the election. They`ve correctly predicted the last 13 elections since 1940. The kids in the scholastic poll have predicted the presidential race wrongly only twice. They thought it was Dewey over Truman in 1948 and in 1960, they thought Nixon would beat JFK.
But other than that, they`ve nailed it every time. This year, over 153,000 kids took part in the scholastic poll. They said overwhelmingly that Clinton will win and by the way, she will in a landslide.
Maybe do you trust the kids? They have a pretty good track record.
Maybe you trust Texas. We`ve now got two news organizations in the last couple of days tilting Texas from solid Republican to lean Republican. Texas is pink? How do you guys feel about that in Texas?
First, it was NBC News, now, today, it`s FOX News saying that Texas -- yes, Texas is now lean Republican. This comes after a handful of polls show a narrow, low single digits race between Trump and Clinton in the Lone Star State.
I don`t know if Texas is ever going to get to toss-up status with any news organization. But if it does, would that settle it for you in terms of what you expect? What do you believe? What is worth trusting at this point?
Joining us is Harry Enten. He`s a senior political writer at FiveThirtyEight.com.
Mr. Enten, thank you for being here.
HARRY ENTEN, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT.COM SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER: My pleasure.
MADDOW: So, you do this for a living?
ENTEN: I try to.
MADDOW: Let me ask you first about the Brexit thing that Donald Trump said today. He said he doesn`t believe the polls and the polls and the prediction markets in particular were wrong when it came to Brexit.
Is there anyway -- anything that we should be looking for in terms of trying to assess whether a Brexit misfire is possible in this election?
ENTEN: Well, I should point out that Mr. Trump, in many of the instances, is wrong in this case. When it comes to the polling, Brexit, in fact, if you look at the final polls in June, I believe it was 17 had Brexit passing, 14 had them remain winning, then 3 were caught. That`s very different than what we had here.
MADDOW: And it was in fact a close result.
ENTEN: And it was a close result. Here, we have the polls agreeing with the prediction markets and that`s an overwhelming advantage for Hillary Clinton.
MADDOW: What is your take on the prediction markets and the bookmakers which is sort of another way of aggregating people`s predictions? Is there any reason to believe that those things are anything other than just prejudice and common wisdom? Is there actual wisdom there?
ENTEN: Not really. I mean, look, they`re gathering the same data that we are. What I will say is they understand, unlike the polling which is obviously just in this point in time, that there`s probably going to be more allegations made against Donald Trump, whether it`d be sexual assault allegations or something perhaps even crazier and they take that into account. So, I think the markets may be a little ahead of our forecasts in this particular instance.
MADDOW: When it comes to actual polls, if we want to be better consumers of polling information at this point, what do you look for in terms of, you know, the four-way race versus a two-way race, likely voters versus registered voters, what are the relevant variables that we should train ourselves to look for?
ENTEN: Well, I tend to look at the four-way race. Remember, Gary Johnson is on the ballot in all 50 states. Jill Stein is pretty close. I look at those. I also do look at the likely versus the registered numbers.
But I will point out there`s not much of a difference right now anymore. As you might expect, Democrats are really enthusiastic after that first debate. The enthusiasm went through the roof. And right now, there`s just not much of a difference. All of the numbers suggest that Hillary Clinton is a heavy favorite at this point.
MADDOW: With those Texas numbers that I brought up, I think a lot of Democrats are sort of chortling over those numbers.
ENTEN: They love it. They love it!
MADDOW: Going pink if not blue.
Do you see -- do you see that sort of thing, that sort of I guess what we call outlier states, do you see them of predictive of a potential electoral landslide or should we just see that specific as to what`s happening in Texas?
ENTEN: I think if you look at the Texas polling, it backs up what you see in Utah and that is that the traditional red states are leaning perhaps a little pink, perhaps there`s a chance Hillary Clinton might win or a third party candidate might win, and then it says to me, you know what, those national polls, like the ABC News poll that have Hillary Clinton up by 11, maybe they`re not too far off the mark.
MADDOW: It bolsters what you`re getting about in terms of other --
MADDOW: Harry Enten, senior political writer at FiveThirtyEight.com, very helpful. Thank you for being here.
ENTEN: Thank you.
MADDOW: Nice to see you.
ENTEN: Nice to see you.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: We asked and now we have received. As of Friday, we had this remarkable phenomenon on our hands where for the first time in modern history, one of the two major party nominees for president found himself with zero newspaper endorsements. Hillary Clinton has a zillion newspaper endorsements, but until Friday, Donald Trump had none.
Then, on Friday, he got his first one. This is from a small paper in Santa Barbara, California. Then last night, our official tally of Donald Trump endorsements by daily newspapers in this country rose from one to two when we learned that, after getting the "Santa Barbara News Press" endorsement on Friday, he then got "The St. Joseph News Press" endorsement out of Missouri on Sunday.
Well, now, today, we can report he just got number three. Today, a nice viewer named Rob sent us a third Donald Trump endorsement which we otherwise would never have found. It`s from a place that is 30 miles south of Dallas, Texas. It`s "The Waxahachie Daily Light". And they say "Trump for POTUS".
And here in part is their argument. Quote, "No candidate is perfect, but in Mr. Trump`s case, we believe his willingness to surround himself with nose that know what they`re doing and that his intent to reverse course of nearly every direction down which we`ve been dragged is exactly what America needs at this point in her history," which is about as easy to trip off the tongue as the word "Waxahachie." But I`ve been getting better at it. I`ve been saying it all day. Waxahachie.
With this endorsement, the "Waxahachie, Texas Daily Light" moves Donald Trump`s from two newspaper endorsements to three. It also gives him the first daily newspaper he`s got that`s not from a paper called the news press.
I want to thank Rob in Harrison Township, Michigan, for the tip on this one. If you, fair viewer, if you, my friend, if you see something out there that we ought to know about, particularly for this campaign, please tell us. You can do to so via sendittorachel.com. We check it all the time, I swear.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Tonight, we`re going to play what might be my favorite interview I have ever done on camera on this show. It`s one of those times when you go out to ask a simple question, what comes back at you from your simple question is a hydra-headed sea monster wolf dog from a bottom of a nightmare you never thought possible because you didn`t know you were asleep. It was crazy.
And I don`t -- I hope I`m not sounding like a jerk when I say I think this was possibly the best interview I`ve ever done on camera, but tonight, we have reason to go back to it. Because tonight, it ends up being back in the news for the presidential race for a reason I really, really, really did not see coming.
MADDOW: The election of 2010 was the great Tea Party wave of leaked. So many great congressional races to cover that year. At one point, before the 2010 election, I took a crew all the way up to Alaska. This was our video I shot from the plane.
We got all the way to Alaska in advance of that election to cover a weird turn in the Senate race up there. A Tea Party guy called Joe Miller knocked out the incumbent Alaska Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski in the Republican primary. Joe Miller just scrambled the entire race. That`s me and Joe Miller on an escalator.
And Senator Lisa Murkowski was trying to hold on to her seat but she had to do it with a write-in campaign. That`s me talking to Lisa Murkowski. It was just wild. It was totally worth the trip.
And when we went up there to Alaska to cover what was going on, I also did what I thought would be run-of-the-mill man on the street interviews with people explaining what they thought about this crazy election. But instead of having run-of-the-mill interview answers, I got an earful about, woo, a lot.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The voter intimidation with the Black Panthers. That`s what I`m upset about Holder for, and Lisa Murkowski supported him. When they had those people out there in their military uniforms and their night sticks and he refused to prosecute them because they were black and that`s what`s happening in our judicial system right now.
MADDOW: Do you think the New Black Panther Party made a difference in that election?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In that precinct, they did. You betcha.
MADDOW: You think they did?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People were there and they were intimidated by it.
MADDOW: Do you think the New Black Panthers are having an effect on this election?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don`t know. We haven`t heard the results yet.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It could, you it could. We haven`t heard yet. I`m only here --
MADDOW: You think in the lower 48 the New Black Panthers are making a difference?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You won`t have them up here.
MADDOW: How come?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It just, the way how the country, this state is set up. It`s not conducive for what they`re trying to do.
MADDOW: Do you think the New Black Panthers are active in a lot of the lower 48?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Major cities. I`ll just say major cities because I doubt they all have the support in the suburbs and in the counties outlying the cities.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: You can see my thought process evolving during that conversation, right? That was in Alaska in October 2010. Those were folks that wanted to oust Lisa Murkowski, Republican senator, get her out of the Senate, replace her with a Tea Party guy named Joe Miller.
Their main reason for wanting to do that, what they were most upset about when it came to their home state senator was this video. It`s about 80 seconds long. It was taken on Election Day 2008 outside a polling place in Philadelphia`s 14th Ward.
And it became one of the great boogiemen of the American right. And the whole thing was pretty much what you see here -- two kind of crazy looking half homeless guys who braid their beard hair standing outside this polling place in a black neighborhood in Philadelphia on Election Day. They were there for maybe an hour. Somebody called the cops at some point and they went away.
And when George W. Bush`s Justice Department looked into that video, they decided it was not worth pressing charges against anyone. It`s kind of a local thing. That weird thing happened for an hour at a precinct.
But that`s something nuts happened. That video, that little 80-second video taken in a Philadelphia neighborhood 2008 became such a huge national issue not just in local voting issue resolved in an hour in Philadelphia`s 14th Ward, it became such a huge issue people were talking to me about it 3,400 miles away in Alaska two years later in the 2010 leaked as evidence that Barack Obama`s Justice Department was a monstrous plot under Eric Holder to have militant black people steal the election all over the Lower 48.
They couldn`t probably pull it off in Alaska! This video, this one squib of video of the guys with the braided beard hair in Philadelphia turned into the rallying cry of Tea Party supporters all across the country, including Alaska. It was a remarkable thing, and it was a remarkable study in something called how the FOX News Channel works, because that little tiny squib of tape didn`t look random and inconsequential on FOX News.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Two members of the Black Panther Party, one brandishing a night stick intimidating poll watchers. Race and politics are driving DOJ decisions when it comes to enforcing the law.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These men were accused of intimidating white voters but the state department dropped all charges against them despite the evidence.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Black Panthers also stood guard at polling places, as I just mentioned 2008 in Philly. The group`s leader with a night stick in his hand.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Serious allegations today that the decision to drop virtually all of a now infamous voter intimidation case against members of the Black Panther Party may have reached all the way to the White House.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Whole squads of the FOX News Channel were built on this story, in that 80 seconds of tape. I mean, for a while, you could not avoid that tape on the FOX News Channel.
In 2010, the liberal watchdog Media Matters, they counted 95 different FOX News Channel segments in the span of just over two weeks all based on that 60-second, 80-second video.
So, that video became a study in how FOX News works. But it`s also a study in the roots of the Donald Trump campaign because FOX News got that video from a man named Mike Roman who runs a right wing website called Election Journal, where he describes himself as a veteran political consultant and private investigator. And he shopped that video to FOX News where they ran 90 seconds of it over a two-week period and beat that dead horse for years.
Mike Roman went on to be a regular contributor to right wing fever swamp Breitbart.com. He wrote lots of articles about how the New Black Panther Party was undermining American elections, those two guys.
And all the while, the Justice Department was turning a blind eye because, well, you know why.
We tend to think of the New Black Panther thing as a ridiculous FOX News story and rightly so, but if you were looking for the root of this, how people in Alaska were telling me that Barack Obama and Eric Holder were part of a big black conspiracy to steal elections all over the country and the New Black Panthers are operating in every city of the country, how a crisis of confidence and the integrity of American democracy gets its start with accusations of scary black nationalists engage in voter intimidation, if you are looking for the root of all that, you are looking at this guy, Mike Roman. This merchant of doubt, this guy Mike Roman who started that whole thing.
And Mike Roman is who the Donald Trump campaign has just hired to run its nationwide election protection operation for the presidential election this year three weeks from today. "The Guardian" newspaper reporting today that Mike Roman is the guy who will oversee all poll watching efforts for Donald Trump. What could possibly go wrong?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: They even want to try and rig the election at this polling booths where so many cities are corrupt and voter fraud is all too common. And then they say, there`s no voter fraud in our country. There`s no voter fraud.
No, no, there`s no voter fraud. Take a look at St. Louis. Take a look at Philadelphia. Take a look at Chicago, and then I have even the Republicans saying oh, this is a wonderful -- look, look, if nothing else, people are going to be watching on November 8th.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: And now we know who`s goal to be in charge of that watching for the Trump campaign to oversee their election protection efforts the Trump has reportedly hired a guy named Mike Roman, who`s best known as the conservative activist who promoted the FOX News theory that those homelessy guys from the New Black Panther Party somehow stole the whole election in 2008, along with other voter fraud and intimidation conspiracy theories.
Ben Jacobs at the Guardian was the first to report this hire by the Trump campaign.
Ben Jacobs, appreciate your time joining us tonight. Thanks very much for being here.
BEN JACOBS, THE GUARDIAN POLITICAL REPORTER: Thanks so much for having me, Rachel.
MADDOW: We reached out to the Trump campaign to confirm what you reported, to confirm that they have brought Mike Roman on board. We did not hear back from them, which is not all that unusual for us sadly. They don`t always get back to us in terms of our queries.
Have you heard anything from the campaign about this? Have they officially confirmed it?
JACOBS: They haven`t officially confirmed it. But this is something that has been reported from a number of sources confident that Mike Roman`s been brought in, that he`s been involved in the campaign for a few months, that he`s -- you know, since the New Black Panthers worked for the Koch brothers putting together their now disbanded intelligence unit. But he is definitely overseeing their election protection efforts.
And what`s particularly interesting is that with all Trump`s talk about Philadelphia, Mike Roman is from the Philadelphia area, which adds a new edge to that.
MADDOW: Hmm. What do we know about, or do we have any reason to have expectations in terms of what the Trump campaign is going to do for its election protection operation? Obviously, every campaign does some version of this. Do we know what Trump`s version will be?
JACOBS: That`s still a little unclear, that they`ve been actively recruiting people to be poll watchers, election watchers. You can go to their website now and sign up and this is a far more active effort than almost any other campaign has been doing, because normally on Election Day, the priority is that people knock doors or do phone calls to turn people out, rather than showing up at a polling place and just staring at the people who do show up and vote. That it`s not necessarily a top priority and that normally its biggest use is for monitoring things, to get a sense of turnout earlier in the day so you can distribute resources appropriately.
MADDOW: In terms of your -- just you`re reporting on this, your sources telling you about the hiring of Mike Roman, and what you understand about his history, for those of us who weren`t familiar with him. Clearly, I was familiar with how FOX went hog-wild on that New Black Panther story. I didn`t know much else about him before reading your reporting about it today.
Is there anything that it says to you, this hire says to you in particular sort of the direction that the Trump campaign is taking or what parts of the conservative movement in the Republican Party they`re tapping for this last 21 days?
JACOBS: Well, it certainly says something with the level of the rhetoric that he`s put out about voter fraud in the last week, two weeks, that it`s not something that we`ve seen in modern American history and that this is something seriously being pursued. And Mike Roman is a writer, has written for Breitbart, which is the website that Steve Bannon, its CEO, now runs the Trump campaign, that Trump is really appealing to this sort of doubling down, tripling down, going for the most hard core possible message, and that this is a campaign that`s running solely on right wing id over the next three weeks, and that we`re not going to see a moderate Trump, a softer Trump, more responsible Trump, that this is going to be someone howling about voter fraud until the polls close and afterwards.
MADDOW: "Then afterwards" is the part that I think that`s starting to get pretty ominous.
Ben Jacobs, reporter with "The Guardian" who broke this story today -- Ben, congratulations on the scoop. Thanks for being here tonight.
JACOBS: Thanks so much for having me.
MADDOW: All right. Still ahead, something to keep your eyes on ahead of tomorrow night`s big final debate. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Couple weeks ago, we hosted on this show a former United States Marine special operator named Peter Kiernan. He`s a very accomplished young man. He`s an Afghanistan veteran. He`s back home in the United States now. He`s pursuing a college degree at Columbia.
And as a student, as a veteran, he put together a remarkable effort to try to persuade Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump to release his tax returns.
People from all over the country, from all 50 states pledged as part of Peter Kiernan`s effort, pledged more than $6 million that will be donated to American veterans organizations if Donald Trump chooses to release his ten most recent years of tax returns, just like Mike Pence released his returns. If Trump releases those returns, more than $6 million will get dispersed to veterans groups.
Now, there`s a deadline on this. The deadline for Mr. Trump to do his part set from the very beginning is tomorrow night, before tomorrow night`s debate. So, tick tock, we`ll see.
The third and final presidential debate of this presidential election, you should plan to watch it here, commercial free tomorrow night. Chris Hayes kicks off our primetime coverage tomorrow at 6:00 live from Las Vegas, followed by a special edition of "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews at 7:00 Eastern, and Brian Williams and I will take over at 8:00. The debate starts in Vegas at 9:00 Eastern. We`ll also then, of course, bring you special post-debate coverage after the debate ends, probably starting around 10:30 Eastern and going until we`re all dead.
So, that`s your plan for tomorrow night. It will be very exciting. It`s the last debate of the year, the last debate of this election. You must be there. See you tomorrow night.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL."
Good evening, Lawrence.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END